More than 900 workers at Saskatoon Co-op locations within Saskatoon, Martensville, Warman, Colonsay and Watrous are currently on strike and began walking the picket line early morning on November 1st. The workers are part of the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Canada Local 1400, which represents the workers at grocery stores, gas stations, Agro Centres, home centres and liquor stores across the region.
A notice for the strike was presented to Saskatoon Co-op and the Minister’s office on Monday, October 29th and workers are asking for support from the communities in which they operate. Rob Gillies, UFCW Canada Local 1400 Director of Negotiations, noted that the main hurdle throughout contract negotiations has been Co-op’s plan to reduce wages for new hires. “The sole reason given by the CEO of the Saskatoon Co-op for the introduction of the second tier is ‘long term sustainability’ of the Co-op. This rationale does not make sense to the employees’ bargaining committee, as this sustainability shouldn’t be achieved by lowering the quality of life of new employees,” Gillies explained in a release.
While the strike is taking place, Saskatoon Co-op announced that they would be working to ensure that locations remain open. “Our stores provide core services in many of the communities where we operate,” said CEO Grant Wicks in a November 1st news release. “We want to let our customers know that we’re keeping our doors open to serve you, and we appreciate your patience as we continue to work toward an agreement with the Union.” Full details on open locations and hours will be shared through www.saskatoonco-op.crs.
The release continued to state that Saskatoon’s retail landscape has changed significantly throughout recent years, with new competitors entering the market, which is challenging long-standing local businesses. “Our current wage ranges are as much to 25 to 35 per cent higher than our competitors, which isn’t sustainable in the long-term. The wage range that we’ve proposed to the Union still allows us to compensate our new employees as well as or even better than our competitors,” Wicks said.
Saskatoon Co-op has not locked employees out and welcomes employees who would like to continue to work to cross the picket line.
During the strike, Co-op Pharmacies will continue to fill customer prescriptions and provide essential services at five locations. Customers are asked to call I refill orders 48 hours in advance when possible, with free delivery to any home address within Saskatoon and Warman.
Plans to sit down this Friday to continue negotiations are in place.